So, as we all know, the two most important things a new mother can do are:
1) provide from her own body, Gaia-like, the perfect, natural, unique nourishment for her precious infant that only she can give, the irreplaceable liquid gold that can, to a degree unmatched by any substance made by men, support the immune system, stimulate brain growth, promote emotional security, expel demons, clean those hard-to-reach places, raise your credit score, and guarantee at least a partial scholarship to a state school,
2) lose weight.
Note, I don’t say “get thin.” That would be optimal, of course–ideally you would leave the hospital looking like a skeleton wearing a skin suit two sizes too small, with symmetrical breasts pointing straight out like pup tents–but not everyone can achieve that. Besides, if that were the only acceptable standard, mothers would recognize it as absurd and decline to try. But instead, the requirement is “lose weight.” It’s both achievable and impossible. Everyone could always weigh a little less, right? But you are never finished losing weight. Not without a doctor’s note barring you from the arena. Never will a certificate arrive saying, “You have acquitted yourself nobly. You are now Acceptable. You can stop.” I’ve heard an 80-year-old woman complaining that she’s gotta lose these ten pounds. Why??? I wanted to ask. What in your life would be different or better?? But in truth, there is no more reason for me to lose weight than for her to. I am overweight and healthy and comfortably married and no professional obligations requiring thinness such as those of a TV news anchor or spelunker. It’s nice to fit into standard size clothes instead of plus, but it’s not like I have ever invested much, personally or financially, in sartorial self-expression. So what’s the problem with me as I am? Or with you?
Ah but all the knowledge in the world can’t make me wise. This past week I went back to shunning breads and sweets, which is how I always used to eat because carbs make me sleepy and cranky. I abandoned this diet with extreme prejudice during pregnancy because I was already sleepy and cranky all the time and also had no other pleasures available to me. So the last couple weeks, I’ve gone back to it, and my doctor changed one of my medications so now it’s managing my ADD symptoms much better (hey! You might get those baby announcements after all!) but it also suppressed my appetite. Consequently I lost about three pounds in the last week. That put me about 10 pounds higher than my previous highest weight ever, and yet I was thrilled, because it’s not about a number. It’s relative. What matters is to be less. It’s always going to be “be less.”
Yes I lost three pounds. I’m sure my certificate is in the mail. You know what else happened in the last two weeks, beloveds? My fucking milk supply dropped. I’ve been pumping both boobs for the last hour as I typed to you, hooked up like Bessie the cow, and I have only about seven ounces of milk to show for it. You know what seven ounces of milk will do? Get Benji through a couple of hours. I probably had 60 ounces saved up in the freezer, a whole drawer, and when I came in here all but 10 were gone. By now, my savings is probably even less, judging from the howl I heard from my mother’s room followed by the sound of the microwave. I’ve begun giving him half breastmilk and half formula, but he’s still burning through my supply.
But will I now go back to buttered bread at night and taking my fajitas in a tortilla instead of a plate?
You tell me.
Update: You may have detected some hyperbole in my description of the wonders of breastmilk. That’s because while breastmilk is great for babies, the debatable difference in benefits between breastmilk and modern formula don’t hold a f**king candle to the benefits conferred by having an emotionally and physically well mother. So if you’re struggling, and you know what would help but you think suffering the supposedly optimal thing would be better for your baby, stop. Shake off the stigma, flip off the message boards, buy the formula, take the antidepressants, go back to work, and/or leave your abuser. Babies are emotional sponges and they’re totally tuned into you. Take care of you, if not for yourself, for them. And if you give grief to another woman for her supposedly selfish choices, you get to join all the other sleeper agents of the patriarchy in a special circle of hell I think we, the Snuggledown community, should crowdsource the design of. Maybe you’re waiting for your order at the copy center of an office supply store, but forever. I dunno. You get the point. Suggest things in the comments!
Update 2: The milk reserve is gone.